Bernie Sanders rallies at Macomb Community College

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published March 6, 2016

 Veronica Albo, of Grosse Pointe Woods, was one of hundreds of young supporters to attend the Sanders rally.

Veronica Albo, of Grosse Pointe Woods, was one of hundreds of young supporters to attend the Sanders rally.

Photo by John McTaggart

WARREN — Nearly 3,000 people came to “Feel the Bern” March 5 at Macomb Community College’s Warren campus.

A mixed-age crowd poured into MCC’s Sports and Expo Center to see presidential Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, discuss his campaign initiatives.

Doors opened at 4:30 p.m. and a long line of people were waiting outside at that time, even though Sanders didn’t take the stage until 7 p.m. Police estimated the total crowd was approximately 2,800 people.

Prior to Sanders taking the stage, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts took the microphone to say, “The proudest moment I’ve had as mayor for eight years is to introduce the next president of the United States, Bernie Sanders.”

Fouts compared Sanders to former President Harry S. Truman, saying both live by the phrase, “The buck stops here.” He continued by saying that Sanders’ record of not taking major campaign contributions — only taking them from individuals — further enforces that no conflict of interest exists.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous, a Sanders supporter, followed Fouts and said the nation is polarized and that the powers have been taken away from the people. He echoed Fouts’ concern for bad trade deals, adding that oligarchs and the media are trying to take away individual democracy.

“The American Dream shone so brightly here 50 years ago,” Jealous said.

Sanders then took the stage to thunderous applause. People held his campaign signs with the slogan “A future to believe in” high in the air.

“What I’m going to try to do tonight is something radical in American politics: to tell the truth,” Sanders said, which increased the crowd’s fervor.

His first point of emphasis was on what he called the failed Supreme Court decision regarding Citizen’s United, which prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by nonprofit organizations. It also applies to for-profit organizations, labor unions and other associations.

“Democracy is not about billionaires buying elections,” said Sanders, whose campaign has attacked income inequality and Wall Street.

He then went after his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, regarding her ties to Wall Street and making hundreds of thousands of dollars in speeches — which he sarcastically said must have been “Shakespearean speeches” to result in so much money.

He tackled income inequality, criminal justice reform, the failed war on drugs, police officers being held accountable for wrongful actions, and improving diversity in police units.

Sanders discussed how drug abuse — notably related to opioids — is a mental health issue and not a criminal issue. He pushed for an expansion of mental health treatment facilities across the nation.

In the evening’s third reference to trade deals, Sanders attacked Clinton for supporting trade agreements like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. He said that while it’s “not a sexy topic,” that difference between him and Clinton is important because many people — including those in Michigan — have lost jobs as a result.

Clinton wasn’t the only political target, as Sanders took issue with Republicans’ stances on women’s health rights and gay marriage.

The senator told the crowd that talking to one particular Flint family was one of the most difficult discussions of his life. He said Gov. Rick Snyder should “do the right thing” and resign.

Sanders then went to his stump speech topics: providing universal health care to all people, along with paid medical and family leave through a Medicare-for-all system; climate change; and how the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent in America.

When he discussed the five million-plus contributions his campaign has received, the crowd finished his statement by yelling “$27” to signify the average amount of each contribution.

He ended by encouraging everyone to vote in the March 8 state primary, attacking Republican front-runner Donald Trump for his pejorative racial and gender-based connotations.

“The American people know that love trumps hatred,” Sanders said before leaving the stage to David Bowie’s “Starman” playing over the loudspeaker.

Kara Agby, 20, a student studying integrative public relations at Central Michigan University, wore Sanders garb and held a colorful sign in support of her No. 1 choice.

Agby, who is originally from Harrison Township, likes how Sanders inspires his electorate and paints a path where everything can be accomplished if people work together.

“A lot of people that I associate myself with feel the same way (about Sanders),” Agby said. “It’s kind of nice to have support from not only millennials as a group, but people I associate with. It’s pretty cool that as I’m coming up into the workforce, it’s really fun to be a part of this movement. It’s a future to believe in, and it’s fun to have my friends on board with that too.

“People say, ‘Oh, he’s a little old man,’” she said. “But he’s got a lot of power and a lot of fight.”

Ryan Warren, 28, of Fraser, works at the Michigan Department of Corrections and became a Sanders supporter a couple of months ago. He likes that the majority of Sanders’ contributions are from everyday people who donate $500 or less.

“I like that he seems to be a genuine person, that he’s fighting to break up the big banks, he’s fighting corporate America, he doesn’t take any campaign contributions from corporations,” Warren said. “I don’t think Hillary’s support was as strong as even eight years ago, when (President) Barack (Obama) came out. (Obama) was an underdog, and we all saw how that worked out.”